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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Breaking News: Penguins Are The Team To Beat In The Eastern Conference

The Bruins are in one of their infamous goal droughts again and this time it has really hurt them. Boston (26-12-5) is winless in its last four games (0-3-1) after falling 3-2 to Pittsburgh (34-10-0) this afternoon at TD Garden. The Penguins clinched the top seed in the Eastern Conference while the Bruins continued their longest winless streak of the season. Boston has scored two goals in each of its last three games and they haven't scored more than two in their last four games, do you sense a pattern here?

Carl Soderberg made his NHL debut and Milan Lucic was a healthy scratch for the first time this season but he'll probably be back in the lineup tomorrow since Nathan Horton hurt his hand/wrist during a fight with Jarome Iginla in the first period. The B's have allowed two power play goals in each of the last three games, another sign that the NHL's top penalty kill unit isn't up to snuff at the moment.

Tomas Vokoun (38 saves) got the start while Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and James Neal were all out with various injuries. That coupled with the fact that Boston is right there with Montreal meant this loss was particularly rough. This is a game they should have won, starting with the fact that they outshot the Penguins every period with a final total of 40-24. Those numbers weren't padded either since the B's had way more quality scoring chances.

After Adam McQuaid and Tanner Glass fought, Brad Marchand (17th goal of the season) gave Boston a 1-0 lead with a power play goal at 10:18. Zdeno Chara and Tuukka Rask (21 saves; 17-9-5) had the assists as Marchand got a step on Pittsburgh's defense then took a shot that trickled past Vokoun.

Jussi Jokinen tied it at 5:10 of the second period with assists from Matt Niskanen and Glass. He jumped all over a loose puck right in front of Rask and roofed it with a diving backhander for a pretty goal.

Pittsburgh put it away with a pair of power play goals in the third period. Iginla's slap shot went through Rask's five hole at 4:43 then Kris Letang beat him at 8:29 with a shot that was a little closer and in a prime shooting spot. Make no mistake though, from that distance Rask has to stop Iginla's shot that was screened but not tipped.

Tyler Seguin scored his 16th game of the season with three seconds left in regulation, Chara had the lone assist on the garbage time tally. If it had come a few minutes earlier, it would have at least made things more interesting. The Penguins swept the season series with the B's (3-0-0) proving that the Eastern Conference will go through them and the CONSOL Energy Center.

Now the B's have to hope the Canadiens lose to the Capitals tonight so Montreal remains only two points ahead of Boston. Otherwise, they'll have even more work cut out for them. First things first, they need to clean up their own game and that starts with beating the crap out of the Panthers (13-25-6) tomorrow afternoon (12:30 p.m., NESN). I think that Anton Khudobin will get the start then again maybe Claude Julien picks Rask so that he can get back on track (he's 0-3-0 in his last three starts). The Bruins need a blowout win in the worst way.

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